Friday, April 30, 2010

Book Review: Jenny's Dance by Bruce Kaplan

Jenny’s Dance was originally published in Australia in 1989, but after the small publisher went belly up the book went out of print. Twenty years later author Bruce Kaplan made a few small tweaks and decided to re-release the book himself in 2009.

Of course if you ask me, the book needs A LOT more editing despite its fascinating story…

After a traumatizing incident, journalist Michael Baird’s therapist recommends he take a nice long vacation. Michael heads to the sleepy resort town of Koala Bay, but it turns out things aren’t quite so quiet there. A violent series of murders is being covered up by the local authorities, murders which just might involve some young children with high I.Q.’s. Though Michael has been warned not to get involved or cause himself any undue stress, his journalistic instincts tell him otherwise and he is soon in the thick of it. Can Michael find out who or what is killing the residents of Koala Bay before either the authorities or the killer(s) kill him first?

Jenny’s Dance has an intriguing sci-fi/horror storyline, but unfortunately tends to get bogged down by sloppy grammatical and punctuation errors and slim character development.

First off, let’s get the obvious out of the way – apparently author Bruce Kaplan has never heard of punctuation or it doesn’t exist in Australia, because he uses it as little as possible. And by “as little as possible” I mean it is usually just used at the end of sentences, if you’re lucky. There are no quotation marks when dialogue is used, there are no apostrophes – neither to mark possession nor to mark the omission of letters (like “shouldn’t” for “should not”), there are no commas to mark pauses in sentences – pretty much the only punctuation that is used is the period at the end of sentences. I understand the creative omission of punctuation in something like poetry, but in a novel it’s kinda vital, doncha think? I had a hard time getting into the book (or taking it seriously) because of the heinous misuse (no use?) of punctuation. And the author even had a second time to fix all this nonsense since this was his second time releasing the book!!

Secondly, the characters all feel and act like stereotypical cardboard cut-outs (with about that much personality). The hero of the novel has a tragic past, but overcomes it to solve the case and win the girl…yada yada yada. There are the typical crooked cops and authorities, the “creepy” kids (who aren’t all that fleshed out and not so creepy) and the underdeveloped female characters. The female characters are probably the flimsiest, and exist in the book to only play mothers or love interests. Psh…I could go on a rant about this alone, but this book has so many other problems that I’ll refrain. Just know that all of the characters are stereotypical and aren’t that well fleshed out, making the reader not care that much about them. Also, things happen to the characters that just seem too convenient. Michael falls in love with a local school teacher awfully fast (their relationship seemed a bit forced and contrived) and he always happens to stumble upon bodies, among other things. At times, even the dialogue and interactions between people in the book seems off and a little stilted.

However, I will say that the storyline was intriguing and was the only thing that kept me reading. Despite the poor use of punctuation and the cardboard characters the idea behind the book was unique and interesting. I liked how Kaplan kept me guessing as to who or what was doing the killing and I especially liked entertaining the fact that it could be kids sucking the brains out of victims. I also thought the final explanation was satisfying and definitely not something you read every day. Though in the end there is a sci-fi twist, I still enjoyed the horror of the story (even though I had to sit through the horror of the formatting).

If you can stomach sacrificing proper punctuation, grammar and decent characters for a cool story,  you may want to check out Jenny’s Dance. The title doesn’t really do the book any favors, nor is it really relevant to the plot, but despite its flaws the actual story isn’t half bad. Just be prepared to slog through a messy manuscript to get to the gem of the story!

Available on Amazon!

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